London's National Gallery, beset by tight finances, is nevertheless launching a campaign to match the J. Paul Getty Museum's offer of an estimated $50 million for a Raphael painting owned by the Duke of Northumberland.
The 16th century work, "Madonna of the Pinks," is one of several by Raphael on display in the museum, where it has been on loan for about a decade. Authorities say it is apparently the last undisputed Raphael painting still in private ownership -- thus, its sale is probably the last chance any museum will have to acquire such an important work by the Italian Renaissance artist, who died in 1520. Getty officials confirmed Wednesday that they had a purchase agreement with the Duke of Northumberland's estate, providing the British government allows the work to leave the country.
Although Getty officials declined to discuss price, sources close to the deal put it at about $50 million, and National Gallery officials have named that amount as their fund-raising target. A gallery spokeswoman said the institution in recent days asked the British Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant of 20 million British pounds, about $31.4 million.
"We hope to raise the rest from private sources," the spokeswoman said. Losing the painting, she added, "would be a great loss to this nation. The picture has been here for 150 years."